Workforce group with ties to Microsoft, LinkedIn chooses Indiana for 2nd location

A workforce development not-for-profit that's backed by two national tech giants is expanding to Indiana, with the goal of helping people obtain skills needed in growing industries and businesses market themselves to potential employees.

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the launch of Skillful Indiana on Thursday morning, along with Skillful CEO Beth Cobert, Markle Foundation CEO and President Zoe Baird, and Microsoft Philanthropies leader Mary Snapp.

Skillful is an initiative from the New York City-based Markle Foundation that started in Colorado in 2016 in partnership with Microsoft and LinkedIn. Microsoft Philanthropies gave Skillful a $25.8 million gift last year. LinkedIn, now owned by Microsoft, provides networking services to Skillful.

The Indiana location will mark the program's first expansion.

Cobert said the state was chosen because of its existing emphasis on workforce development. Holcomb is also one of 20 governors that was already involved in the Skillful State Network, which is a forum for Skillful to share its tools with other states.

Skillful Indiana will work with the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet and local workforce development boards to help Hoosiersparticularly those without four-year college degreessecure jobs. Other partners in Skillful Indiana include the Lumina Foundation, Walmart and Purdue University.

The organization also will work with higher education partners so they can anticipate changes in the economy and help career coaches so they can become better at connecting employees to available jobs.

Holcomb called the announcement a “game-changer” for the state.

The initiative targets the technology, health care and advanced manufacturing industries, among others.

“Here in Indiana, we’ve built a strong pro-growth business climate and have a fully-funded infrastructure plan, but we also need to ensure every Hoosier is prepared for this ever-changing economy while attracting more people to fill the jobs of tomorrow,” Holcomb said in a written statement. “Skillful Indiana will serve as a force multiplier—strengthening and building upon workforce efforts already under way to connect people with the skills they need for high-wage, high-demand jobs.” 

Cobert said the goal of Skillful is to get existing workforce partners to collaborate more and connect employees to the existing opportunities at businesses in the state. Skillful provides employers with various online tools and training to help them focus on what skills they need for certain positions so they can market the opening in a way that provides better results.

For example, Cobert said one company they worked with in Colorado had been advertising for a mechanical engineer, but “they were getting absolutely nowhere.” She said the skills they needed for the job actually reflected those of a diesel mechanic, and once they updated the job posting, they were able to easily hire somebody.

“By helping employers show the skills they need, and everyone to see more clearly the great ways to train at every stage of a career, we will open up opportunity to thousands more Hoosiers,” Baird said in a written statement. “Employers will see the talent in their own communities, and workers will be inspired to become lifelong learners who can keep pace with the evolving needs of a digital economy.” 

Cobert said they’ve trained more than 600 businesses in Colorado so far through the skills program they offer. She said they will start searching for an executive director for Skillful Indiana immediately, and then a “small team” will be hired.

“We are really excited about the opportunities here and the enthusiasm of the governor and his team,” Cobert said.

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